A female prison officer was punched in the face at Hakea Prison yesterday, in the 20th assault on WA prison guards in the past two months.

The woman and a male colleague were trying to break up a scuffle between two prisoners when she was struck by a blow that opened cuts on her face.

Her colleague was left with an agonising three-month wait for test results after the other prisoner spat blood in his face.

The assault happened in the video court facility, where prisoners appear in court via video link.

WA Prison Officers’ Union secretary John Welch said the incident highlighted the grave dangers involved in working in a prison, such as potential exposure to blood-borne diseases.

“An assault of these sorts has a big impact beyond the physical injuries,” he said.

“There are psychological implications too - being assaulted is quite a confronting experience.

“The officer who had blood spat in his face is going to have considerable stress in his life for the next three months while he waits for results.”

Mr Welch said he expected the two prison officers to press charges.

He said the WAPOU had been trying to talk to the State Government since October about chronic overcrowding and staff shortages.

“Being a prison officer is dangerous work. Our prison officers deal with dangerous and violent offenders every day,” he said.

“The State Government can support prison officers by providing proper staffing levels at prisons, new prison facilities to deal with chronic overcrowding, and fair pay and conditions that respect the risks prison officers take.

“We are now seeing the Liberal Party run their election campaign on a law and order platform.

“It is essential that any measure that sees more offenders being held in our prisons is matched by the funding to keep our prisons safe for prisoners and officers.”

Tensions are said to be high at Hakea, where young juvenile offenders from the nearby Banksia Hill detention centre were moved in January after taking part in a violent rampage.

After the incident, 73 Banksia Hill detainees were moved to Hakea but the Department of Corrective Services revealed last week that 140 young offenders were now incarcerated there.

The West Australian

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